Caring for a loved one or a patient can be rewarding. However, it can also be extremely stressful, especially for those who are caring for a family member whom they love dearly. Family caregivers are often thrust into the world of care giving suddenly after an elderly loved one becomes ill or injures themselves. These caregivers are at a high risk for developing caregiver stress due to the everyday anxieties that come with added responsibility. Taking care of an aging loved one can also bring about unwelcome changes to the family dynamic and may apply financial pressures that were not there before. All of these things combined can lead to caregiver stress.
Common signs of caregiver stress
There are many signs of caregiver stress. And these signs may manifest themselves in different ways, depending on the person. However, here are a few indicators to look out for:
- Anxiety, depression or irritability
- Feeling fatigued or run down
- Difficulty sleeping and change in appetite
- New or worsening health problems such as high blood pressure or body aches
- Feeling resentful of people in your life
- Neglecting your own responsibilities
- Withdrawing from your social network
- Lack of sleep
- Inability to concentrate
Negative effects of caregiver stress
We know that being a caregiver is hard work. Most caregivers give their absolute all to provide the proper care for their patients. In doing so, they often forget about themselves and can easily become burnt out. If a caregiver becomes stressed too often though, then the health of their elderly patients can become affected. Having a caregiver who is constantly stressed out isn’t healthy for the caregiver or the patient.
Stressed caregivers can be at risk for heart disease and chronic inflammation. In turn, patients may feel guilty for placing that stress onto their loved one. This guilt can eat away at their health. Caregivers who experience stress may also, inadvertently affect the well-being of their loved one by slacking off during their job. Stressed out caregivers may give the wrong medications or hurry up and finish their daily jobs in order to leave work early.
Managing caregiver stress
Caregiver stress is a chronic challenge that must be addressed for the health of the caregiver and the patient. To manage stress, caregivers should take time to themselves each day and complete activities that they enjoy. Avoid caregiver burnout by exercising, eating right, and participating in fun hobbies. Here are some other ideas.
Certain scents are known to help us relax and calm our nerves. Lavender is one of the best fragrances for relaxing. It is often an ingredient in candles and relaxing bath products. If lavender is not a scent you enjoy, vanilla and jasmine are alternatives to help relax and improve your mood.
Focus on Your Breathing
People who meditate and practice yoga find peace through rhythmic breathing exercises to clear the mind and restore peace. To do this, breathe in deeply through your nose and out your mouth, focusing on your breaths. If you find this difficult without coaching, there are apps to help you focus on your breathing technique and melt the stress away.
Applying pressure to points on your body is an ancient technique to help with many bodily functions. Press your thumb into the center of the palm of the opposite hand and focus on the pressure. This pressure point is effective for the relief of stress and anxiety. These small steps will improve your mood and relieve stress and anxiety when you're strapped for time and money. Small steps like these prevent stress and anxiety from taking hold in your life and will make you a better student and caregiver.
You may come to realize that you cannot reasonably continue to provide 24/7 care to your loved one. Hiring a professional caregiver to help, whether full-time or part-time, can allow you to focus more on spending time with your loved one, instead of constantly worrying about what they need. It is also a good alternative to placing them in a care facility, such as a nursing home.
With less stress in their lives, caregivers can take care of their loved ones better and provide them with the loving care they need to stay healthy and happy. Learn more about stress and how to manage it in our Caregiver Stress Fact Sheet.